The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

St Govan's Well and Chapel

Sacred Well


More, on the strange indentations that Kammer mentions.
On this part of the coast of Pembrokeshire, between Tenby and the entrance to Milford Haven, is a small bay, steep in its sides, and so lashed by surf as rarely to permit a boat to land. Here is the hermitage (or chapel) of St Gawen, or Goven, in which there is a well, the water of which, and the clay near, is used for sore eyes. Besides this, a little below the chapel, is another well, with steps leading down to it, which is visited by persons from distant parts of the principality, for the cure of scrofula, paralysis, dropsy, and other complaints. Nor is it the poor alone who make this pilgrimage: a case came more immediately under my notice, where a lady, a person of some fortune, having been for some time a sufferer from a severe attack of paralysis, which prevented her putting her hand in her pocket, took up her quarters at a farm-house near the well, and after visiting it for some weeks daily, returned home perfectly cured.

From the cliff the descent to the chapel is by fifty-two steps, which are said never to appear the same number in the ascent; which might very easily be traced to their broken character. The building itself is old, about sixteen feet long by eleven wide, has three doors, and a primitive stone altar, under which the saint is said to be buried. The roof is rudely vaulted, and there is a small belfry, where, as tradition says, there was once a silver bell; and there is a legend attached, that some Danish or French pirates came by night, and having stolen the bell from its place, in carrying it down to their boat, rested it for a moment on a stone, which immediately opened and received it. This stone is still shown, and emits a metallic sound when struck by a stone or other hard substance.

One of the doors out of the chapel leads by a flight of six steps to a recess in the rock, open at the top, on one side of which is the Wishing Corner, a fissure in the limestone rock, with indentations believed to resemble the marks which the ribs of a man forced into this nook would make, if the rock were clay. To this crevice many of the country people say our Saviour fled from the persecutions of the Jews. Other deem it more likely that St. Gawen, influenced by religious mortifications, squeezed himself daily into it, as a penance for his transgressions, until at length the print of the ribs became impressed on the rock. Here the pilgrim, standing upon a stone rendered smooth by the operation of the feet, is to turn round nine times and wish according to his fancy. If the saint be propitious, the wish will be duly gratified within a year, a month, and a day. Another marvellous quality of the fissure is, that it will receive the largest man, and be only just of sufficient size to receive the smallest. This may be accounted for by its peculiar shape.
ROBERT J. ALLEN - (Vol. vi. p96)
Bosherton, Pembroke
From p204 of 'Choice Notes from Notes and Queries - Folklore', 1859.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
18th February 2007ce
Edited 18th February 2007ce

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